What Is a Double Eagle in Golf?

Pro golfer Marcel Siem celebrates making a double eagle
Pro golfer Marcel Siem holds up two fingers to show us he just holed out for a 2 on a par-5 - and that's a double eagle. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

"Double eagle" is a term golfers use for a score of 3-under par on any individual golf hole.

Each hole on a golf course is rated as a par 3, par 4, or par 5, where "par" is the expected number of strokes an expert golfer will need to finish that hole. A great golfer should need four strokes to play a par-4 hole, on average. But when a golfer completes a hole in three strokes fewer than par, he is said to have made a "double eagle."

Scores That Result in a Double Eagle

Here are a couple of examples of the specific number of strokes it takes to make a double eagle. You make a double eagle when you:

  • Score a 1 on a par-4 hole; or
  • Score a 2 on a par-5 hole
  • Score on a 3 on a par-6 hole (par-6s holes are rare but do exist).

It is impossible to make a double eagle on a par-3 hole (3-under on a par-3 hole is zero).

And note that although scoring a one on a par-4 hole is a double eagle, no golfer would ever call it such—why call it a double eagle when you can call it a hole-in-one? Therefore, virtually all double eagles that are discussed as such occur on par-5 holes.

Double Eagles and Albatrosses Are the Same

Yes, "double eagle" and "albatross" are two different words that describe the exact same thing: a score of 3-under-par on a hole. Although both terms are used throughout the golf world, one can think of "double eagle" as an Americanism. That term originated in the United States, and "albatross" is the preferred and commonly used term in most of the rest of the golf world. In fact, some professional golfers from the U.K. and Australia have said they never heard the term "double eagle" until coming to the U.S. to play golf, except on television.

Both double eagle and albatross joined the golf lexicon relatively late—in the first few decades of the 1900s—because achieving a score of 3-under on a hole was so rare that no term was needed. "Double eagle" only became commonly used following Gene Sarazen's hole-out for double eagle in the 1935 Masters. In the entire history of The Masters only four doubles eagles have been recorded.

Double Eagles Are Rarer Than Aces

Double eagles are not common at all—they are rare, even among the best golfers in the world. Double eagles are much rarer than holes-in-one.

Why? Because making a double eagle usually requires holing a longer shot—a tee shot on a par-4 or a fairway wood or long iron approach on a par-5, for example. In the first 50 years of the LPGA Tour's existence, only 25 double eagles were recorded. In 2012 on the PGA Tour, there were 37 holes-in-one but only four double eagles, which are fairly typical numbers for a PGA Tour season.

Why Double Eagle?

How did a score of 3-under on a hole come to be called a double eagle? For starters, "eagle" entered the golf lexicon after "birdie," and golfers just stuck with the avian theme (which also explains "albatross"). An eagle is a score of 2-under on a hole; a double eagle is a score of 3-under on a hole. In theory, a triple eagle—4-under on a hole—is possible: It would be a hole-in-one on a par-5 (also called a "condor") or a score of two on a par-6.

One of the reasons some golfers strongly prefer albatross to double eagle is that "double eagle" doesn't really make mathematical sense. An eagle is 2-under-par on a hole; double that should be 4-under. And yet, "double eagle" means 3-under.